Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)
There is a unique culture, a new medium that someone at some time for some reason named the ‘internet’. It is a new way of communicating; a place where you have a voice and your audience is the world. Those Christians who navigate through its maze of opportunities and understand its place can find that the Lord is alive and well on the world-wide web.
In the world of ‘blogging’, there appears to be a mutual respect and deference to anyone who is a member of this internet sub-culture. There are those who may not be Christian or have any of the same beliefs, who become a ‘follower’ of what you do, loyal to the cause, simply because ‘we are all in this together’. This affords a lot of incredible opportunities that are not presented in today’s church or small group or other places where all are of the same mind. It is an open door for sharing how God can truly be alive and truly change lives, in this world we live in.
Lori Laws is one of those bloggers. She has found a voice, a ministry in the fray, encouraging people day by day. She has garnered a following because she is willing to lay it on the line and share intimately about the trials and struggles that have a hold on her life. She is an accomplished cheerleader, seeking the Lord’s guidance on where she should go and who she should encourage. An unlikely ‘minister’, she is someone who may not have known what the word meant a few years ago; or if she did, it may have been met with apathy or contempt. In her own words, “If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be working for God, I would have said ‘you’re crazy’”. So she’s “crazy”; crazy for the Lord, living this life of insanity every minute of every day.
It took a drastic change in course, a detour that has brought her to this place in her life. In the year 2000, at the age of 30, Lori Laws thought she had complete control of her life. Muscular Dystrophy (MD) stripped it all away.
“I was a self absorbed, overconfident, super snob,” Lori writes. “Image was everything. I was definitely a high maintenance kind of girl, and looking ‘put together’ at all times consumed me. I was a beautiful, healthy, and vibrant girl – and certainly knew it. Self-sufficiency, gaining money, and striving for material things is what was important to me…Everything was about status, prestige, and feeding my huge ego.”
What was once an idyllic life, filled with order and consistency, and a life totally devoid of God, began to unravel into the chaos of chronic fatigue.
At the time, she was unaware that this Mitochondrial Myopathy (a form of MD) lay dormant in her body; like a time bomb ticking away, ready to explode in its due time. Recently married to a wonderful man, her life seemed to have direction and a purpose. She had life ‘by its tail’ and she was doing it her way. Then, like a cobra ready to strike, MD grabbed her life and would not let it go.
What does a ‘control freak’ do when what you are dealing with takes your control away? Having lost control, Lori had moments when she wanted to take her life. The Lord took it instead.
It was MD that literally and figuratively brought Lori to her knees and to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
MD is a neuromuscular disease that affects muscle strength, coordination, and balance. In Lori’s case, it mostly affects the lower body and her mobility is limited; her legs, knees, ankles, and toes are very stiff, which makes walking difficult. “I have the balance of a drunken sailor”, she says.
The telltale signs had been there for years, but it is easy to ignore what you do not see. There had been sporadic bouts with clumsiness, burning sensations in her legs and back, and a weakening of her leg muscles. She usually didn’t think anything of it, however. After all, she was too busy living her life.
Then in June, 2000, things started to escalate. She was having an increasingly difficult time keeping her balance. There was an obvious loss of coordination; her legs became heavy and weak and she began having searing pain that would shoot up and down her spine. All of this deterioration occurred in a short period of time.
She was grappling with an unseen force, something that even the doctors initially could not diagnose. The only thing that was completely apparent was that her physical body was no longer her own.
“When a crisis hits, your world is turned upside down,” she writes. “The blinders are on and you can see only two feet in front of you. An all consuming darkness clouds your view. I will always remember the darkness…the hopelessness…the suicidal thoughts. God rescued me in the nick of time.”
It was order that gave her control. She was meticulous with everything; with her appearance, with her home, with her life. When she lost that sense of control, she could no longer rely on her own resources. She realizes now that there was a purpose to this madness, a reason for the pain.
“Ever try to get someone’s attention when they’re preoccupied with something else? What do you do when you have a really important message to convey to someone? What if the message is a matter of life or death? I believe with all my heart that this disease was allowed because it was the only way He could get my attention…
…I was looking for God with all my heart and found Him. I was open to His teaching and He gave me understanding and an abundance of knowledge. The truth of God simply blows me away! That entire time period was such a precious time. My spiritual eyes were beginning to open. I truly understood for the first time, despite what was happening to me, God still loved me! My disease does not change who He is or who I am in Him. I know that He is much greater than my pain.”
And though her body is weak and sick, her soul is alive and well. She understands the needs of others because He is her friend. She can understand others pain because her pain will not end. Because of her struggle, she has taken her eyes off herself and fixed her eyes on Him. And the words of an old hymn rise from the annals of time to resonate and speak to us today:
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still, my soul: Thy best, Thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
(written by Katharine von Schlegel (1697-c.1768))
Because of her disease, she has had to be still, and her willingness to bear this pain, and faith that it will somehow lead to a joyful end, has allowed God to be God. And He is neither passive nor silent. He moves, sometimes invisibly, sometimes visibly, to embrace the lives of others, through even the weakest of vessels, like Lori herself, with sometimes astounding clarity.
Before MD, her whole life was about her needs; after MD, the Lord has given her empathy to understand the needs of others.
Four years ago, Lori developed a group called Never Alone, for women who have chronic illness or physical disability. A very intimate group of encouragement and support, this group has provided a much needed spiritual and social avenue for those who are limited like herself.
Though she has been homebound for almost 10 years, she has access to the world. Through her gift of writing and encouragement, she has developed a blog, an internet journal, on the internet. Aptly called ‘Persevere’, its motto is ‘Running the race of Faith’. Her blog has become a forum, a social site, where others can read and respond to the insights that the Lord has given Lori through her writing. Literally, people from all over the globe have read her blog and chosen to ‘run this race’ with her. One reader writes:
“You have proven what a great gift has been given to you, Lori. Sometimes when we suffer the most physically, we are the most blessed spiritually. Thank you for being a blessing and shining the Lord’s light through your writing!”
There are still times that she cries because she is still grieving the loss and limitations of this horrible disease. She is experiencing a new normal, with a disease that controls every minute of every hour of every day of her life. It is difficult at best and sometimes seems like a burden that is too heavy to bear.
Yet, for all of us, there is a desire for our life to have meaning, a sense of purpose, a reason why we live the life we live. Even now, Lori’s life is not anything unless she does it to fulfillment. And through it all, the Lord has given her a sense of fulfillment.
Though she has a difficult time walking, let alone running, she holds strong to Acts 20:24, which says, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
It’s the burden she carries. It’s the cross she bears. Though pain and strife may haunt us, the Lord is always there.
Be still…when there’s chaos all around you…be still…when you can no longer stand the pain…be still…He’ll run the race beside you…be still…He faithful will remain…He faithful will remain.
(Knowing Lori’s desire is to encourage others with God’s goodness, I have added some music that hopefully will be encouraging to you. Recently, Lori finished an ebook that is titled ‘A Blessing in the Storm…MD messed up my life and made me whole’. She also has a new blog called Nothing but the Truth. If you would like to communicate with, pray for or support Lori, go to http://lorilaws.net.)